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Canparadas Organic Farm & Market

can paradas The €Can Paradas€ finca in Sant Miquel is well worth a visit. It is a taste of paradise for people who have a soft spot for the country life and like to eat healthily. After all, €Can Paradas€ is not just one of the island's last existing farms, it is also the only one dedicated to large scale eco farming.

A country idyll: sheep bleat in the background, big black and white spotty dogs race across the yard, every single inch of the fertile fields glows with natural goodness. Two generations have already worked to make this minor miracle possible: Toni Riera and his Americ
Traditional farmer Antonio helping to harvest the eco vegetables
an wife, Karen, and Toni's parents, Pepa and Antonio.

Together, they manage the finca's six and a half hectares of land, pooling their efforts to set up a business that serves as an example to other landowners and farmers: they harness the Ibizan tenets of love, respect and tradition to cultivate their land in the same way as countless generations of payeses (farmers) before them. A belief in the innate balance of nature is vital - chemicals are out of the question.

The fruits of their labour are as unusual as they are impressive: the first crops of garlic, onions, leeks, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflowers, red cabbage, spinach, broad beans and other vegetables were ready to harvest in mid-March. The peas and potato plants are flourishing. The field of lettuce contains a variety of salad types in a wide range of colours and could easily compete with a flowerbed for sheer visual exuberance.

When Toni & Co. started their career as eco farmers a year ago, their neighbours thought they were mad. Other farmers from the area agreed: €This is never going to work!€. However, the doubting Thomases have long since fallen silent as the brave pioneers' produce is quite literally selling like hotcakes. About fifty families regularly come to shop at the market, held twice weekly on Tuesdays and Saturdays and a number of shops on the island are so impressed with the quality of the produce that they have added them to their own range of fresh fruit and vegetables. €All we need now is a little more experience. At the moment, we're still in the experimental phase, working out what grows well and what sells well - but on the whole, business is booming,€ Toni says, enthusiastically.

can paradas
Eco farmers Karen and Toni
€Can Paradas€ isn't aiming for mass production. All produce has to be planted and harvested by hand. The weeds growing between the vegetable rows are pulled out one by one or removed with a hand-held plough. But doesn't this set prices for eco vegetables rocketing sky high? €It's true that labour costs are a little higher, but we take advantage of the fact that prices for fruit and vegetables are already higher than average here on the island, because they are imported from mass production farms on the mainland. This means that we can still sell our eco produce at the same price as normal produce,€ Toni says. And if the price is the same, who wouldn't rather eat fruit and vegetables that have been grown without using artificial fertilisers, insecticides and sulphates?

Most mainland and island farmers now treat their produce with chemicals that often appear to offer a solution to all of their problems. Why have farmers who have tended to their fields using natural farming methods for countless generations suddenly fallen prey to this way of thinking? €They don't realise that what they're doing is destroying the natural balance, this is a concept that still hasn't reached Ibiza yet because people just haven't been well enough informed. A lot of them think that it's easier to buy something that's going to kill off pests. Plus, there's a lot of pressure from the chemical industry, who know how to market their products. If you're making money from chemicals, then you're not interested in the whole ecological concept. At the end of the day, you're going to have to do your own research to find suitable alternatives,€ concludes Toni.

can paradas€Can Paradas€ offers everyone the opportunity to see for themselves how easy the solution is: a wider variety of plants makes for a smaller number of parasites if no chemicals at all are used. The crops grown in each field are changed regularly, maintaining a constant balance between €good€ and €bad€ plants and insects. Toni says that €It has been proved that there have been crop plagues - worse than before, in fact - even when chemicals have been used. As soon as you start using chemicals, you're destroying the natural balance. In the end, nothing works as it should and you're worse off than you were at the beginning!€.

His fields are therefore only fertilised with compost made of sheep and cow dung or shredded pinewood. He can't use fertiliser from large-scale animal farms because younger animals are often routinely given fodder that has been treated with antibiotics. Another problem that eco farmers face is that there are no ecologically-produced seeds or plants to be found on Ibiza, and Toni has to order everything from a cooperative in Valencia. Because it only accepts bulk orders, Toni is currently attempting to join forces with others interested in eco farming to enable him to place larger orders on a more regular basis.

can paradasThe range of greens set against a background of red earth is a scene guaranteed to appeal to the artist's heart. Toni's parents, Pepa and Toni, are standing in the middle of the broad bean patch, filling up their baskets. What does the older generation think of their son's decision to take up such an unpopular career? And how does it see his enthusiasm for the even less popular profession of €eco farmer€?

His father says: €I think it's great. In the past, we cultivated the land ourselves - like most of the people here on the island. There was a little of everything on the fincas. Each house had one or two cows, goats, sheep, pigs and hens. We planted all sorts of fruits and vegetables. More people should start cultivating their land the old fashioned way!€. His wife adds: €And eco farming is one of the most important types of farming around!€.

can paradas
Toni Riera proudly shows us his stunning crop of cauliflower
Their son smiles as he looks over the land that has been in his family for 30 years. It's easy to believe him when he describes himself as a happy farmer, who found it easy to swap professions after working in the tourist and catering industries. €It's a great feeling to be working at home on your own soil. Soon, I'm going to have to start looking after my parents; we all support each other every step of the way, that's what makes it all possible,€ Toni believes.

To increase his range, Toni has produce delivered from the €Tierrasana€ cooperative in Valencia. Can we be sure that the fruit and vegetables from the mainland are just as ecologically sound as his own produce? Toni is convinced that we can; the produce is checked and tested carefully and conscientiously. Ibiza has its own set of regulations to ensure that consumers are not being misled. For example, all produce must be packed before leaving the farm to ensure that the eco farm produce can be told apart from normal produce and prevent any mix-ups.

can paradasIbiza's first professional eco farmer is optimistic about the future. The number of people who are swapping to the higher quality and better taste of eco produce is constantly on the increase. €We would like to thank everyone for their support - our customers, the shop owners and the island council's agriculture department. Without them, we would never have been able to build up our business,€ Toni says.

His wife Karen summarises it best: €What more could anyone possibly want? Just look at all the different plants and colours - it's like living in the Garden of Eden...€. She's hit the nail right on the head!

Eco market: A small market is held at the €Can Paradas€ finca from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Just follow the road from Sant Miquel towards Sant Mateu turn left on to the €Camí de Pla Roig€ and drive straight on until you see a sign on the right that says €Can Paradas€.

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